Mariners announce starting rotation
Ahead of schedule for most teams, the Seattle Mariners revealed their starting rotation on Wednesday. The M’s will be starting off the regular season on March 28 in Tokyo, Japan, so they have been at spring training longer than all other teams. Thursday was the twentieth and final game this spring for the Mariners, who lost to finish at 12-8. Felix Hernandez got the start and the loss (giving up eight runs on ten hits), but the Mariners’ ace will be ready to start the season in Tokyo next week against the Oakland Athletics.
Behind King Felix, also starting in Japan will be Jason Vargas, the pitcher who gave up seven runs in two-thirds of an inning on Tuesday. Followed by him will be veteran free agent and spring training invitee, Kevin Millwood, who is far from his prime but has a resumé including two no-hitters under his belt. Millwood has a long-standing tradition of shutting down in the season whenever his team best needs him. Last year was no exception, when the Rockies blew an incredibly successful April lead in the NL West do to poor hitting and the sudden lackluster performances and injuries suffered by their rotation. Now being a Mariner with the last shot of revamping his career, Kevin Millwood will probably fall apart as well.
The brighter spots of this year’s starting rotation belong to youngsters Hector Noesi. Noesi was a throw-in pitcher for the Mariners who swapped up-and-coming stars Michael Pineda for catcher Jesus Montero with the Yankees. Noesi had three very solid starts in spring training and will get a shot to prove himself as a starter with the Mariners. Last year he pitched in the Yankees bullpen as a relatively effective long-innings reliever. Blake Beavan, a former number one draft pick by the Texas Rangers, was acquired in the blockbuster deal that sent Cliff Lee to away from Seattle. Beavan proved he could be an effective starter with the M’s in the last half of the 2011 season, and after four solid outings in the preseason, he’ll work to prove he doesn’t belong in the bullpen, or Tacoma.
One of the biggest surprise of the spring was that Japanese import, Hisashi Iwakuma – a player who could have signed for a digit figures in 2011 (he signed for up to three million with the Mariners) – will be pitching in the bullpen. Almost always, foreign players need time to adjust to the ways of American baseball. In spring training Hisashi Iwakuma struggled to many times, so the Mariners are hoping he can get a grip with his new surroundings first in the bullpen.
Overall, the Mariners rotation lacks is questionable, but has such a good chance of becoming one of the better starting staffs this year. The Mariners traded starters Erik Bedard and Doug Fister halfway through last year, and also traded Michael Pineda during the offseason. Over the offseason, the front office has found ways of adding veteran arms who could start such Millwood, Iwakuma, and Oliver Perez, as well as unproven, overlooked talents, like Noesi and Iwakuma. Young relievers who showed snippets of what they were capable of will likely be brought up from the minors again (such as Charlie Furbush, Mauricio Robles, and Anthony Vasquez). Ultimately, the rotation is flexible right now so star prospects Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton can be added without sacrificing big money by signing soon-to-be-traded free agents.